For me, personally, the biggest worries revolve around one question: Is this really worth it? And no, I don’t mean that my mode of being is an existential crisis. What I mean is that I often find myself asking whether this particular activity is worth my investment of time and energy. This meta-level monitoring function is a direct result of the two following concepts.
If you’ve studies economics or business, you’ve surely heard of this. If you haven’t – well, you might be missing one important hammer in the toolbox of good thinking. As a concept, opportunity cost is really simple. The opportunity cost of any product, device or activity is what you don’t get instead. For example, if I go to the gym for an hour, I’m giving up the chance to watch an episode of House, for example. Of course, there are all kinds of activities one is giving up for that hour, but ultimately what matters is the best opportunity given up – that’s the opportunity cost.
Marginal benefit (or utility) is also quite simple. The marginal benefit of something is the benefit you get by consuming an extra unit of that good. For example, at the moment of writing this, the marginal benefit of a hamburger would be quite high, since at the moment I’m pretty hungry. What’s important is that the marginal benefit changes over time – it’s never constant. One burger is good, and two maybe even better, but add more and more burgers on my desk and I’ll hardly be any happier. In fact, anything over three burgers is a cost to me, since I can’t possibly eat all that – I’ll just have to carry them to the garbage!
These two concepts help you to ask two things. How much are you getting out of this? What could you get instead? And if the answer is that there’s something more you want instead –well, that’s a wonderful result! At least now you know what you want! :) Or, well, until the marginal benefit decreases, at least…